The three recent events of shooting, stabbing and attempted decapitations in France are stark reminders of the dangers of religious beliefs. There will of course be attempts to single out Islam as unique in the realms of killing in the name of god. Indeed, Islamic fundamentalism well deserves the condemnation it will undoubtedly get. Stabbing a complete stranger to death and then trying to hack their heads off just because someone else had shown cartoons of a historical originator of a religion drawn by yet a third person, is a uniquely evil form of punishment for a non-crime.
However, heads blown off random bystanders by laser guided missiles, from a Christian piloted modern aircraft over Yemen or Iraq is no less a decapitation – and also for no discernible crime. Likewise, a Jewish Israeli drone delivering phosphorus bombs or missiles into Gaza will no doubt severe numerous body parts of anyone in the vicinity. Killing innocents (collateral damage) is still a feature of many individuals belonging to one or other of the three Abrahamic religions. But then killing is actually in the scriptural DNA of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example;
“26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come to me. And all the Levites gathered themselves together to him. 27 “And Moses said to them, Thus says the Lord God of Israel: put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from door to door throughout the camp and slay every man his brother, his friend, and his neighbour.” 28 “And the Levites did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand.” (Torah/Old Testament. Exodus Chapter 32 verse 26 – 28.)
No mention of decapitations here but with flashing swords hacking and killing in a house to house (or tent to tent) frenzy no one can be sure there weren’t any all those years ago! And in Exodus Chapter 34 verse 24 we are informed that God warns; “…I will destroy the nations from before you and enlarge your borders; ” Now these extracts are from the Torah of the Jewish religion, or as it is also known, the Christian Old Testament. So when Israeli Jewish Zionists have been witnessed clearing villages, bulldozing Palestinian houses and Olive groves, shooting Palestinian protesters and bombing Gaza, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, they can, like Islamists, reassure themselves that what they are doing is also sanctioned by their God.
There are many such examples in the Torah/Old Testament, (eg. see Leviticus 20 v 2 and Numbers 15 v 35 and 36). I will just include one more before moving on. After ordering his followers to kill and burn in some Midianite cities, Moses demands;
“15 Why have you let all the women live?”……17 “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him”. 18 “But all the female children who have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31 v 14 – 18)
Reading this it is obvious that on top of a record of genocide and infanticide what is more than hinted at here is religious approval for adult males to have sex with, under-age girls – as a perk for their recent ‘killing in the name of God’. Now I am a revolutionary-humanist and atheist and I don’t believe there are any Gods so I cannot logically blame a nonexistent entity for advocating such inhuman genocidal brutality and shameful sexual exploitation of young females. However, If they are not instructions from a god then at the very least they are the product of some ancient men, verbally recited at first, continually approved and later written down in the form of legitimate, attitudes, events and actions.
The above and the dozens of other such examples of advocated sectarian brutality and genocide, along with despicable sexist attitudes to women are still an accepted part of the scriptural foundations of both Judaism and Christianity. So when past examples of Christians “destroying nations” and “enlarging borders” (as they once did in North and South America and Africa etc.), are considered, we can recognise the continuity between actions of the ancient religiously guided past and those of the more recent religiously guided past and in some cases – even the religiously guided present!
Is it not truly remarkable that to this day no-one (or group) within Judaism and Christianity (particularly within their priestly hierarchies) have campaigned to have these numerous inhuman scriptural attitudes and actions highlighted and denounced as being completely unacceptable as modern ways of thinking and behaving?
Having briefly indicated the scriptural brutality and prejudice in the ‘foundations’ of both Judaism and Christianity it is now time to consider what scriptural authorisation lies behind those Muslims who shout ‘God is Great’ as they stab, blow up, shoot or decapitate random people they encounter. The Qu’ran (Koran) is one of the documents which guides those who are members of the religion of Islam. It comprises of 114 numbered and named sections entitled Surah’s. Here are just a few examples.
“Believers make war on the infidels who dwell around you.” (Surah 9:123. ‘Al-Tawba’)
“Fight for the sake of Allah those who fight against you…..kill them wherever you find them…..Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allahs religion reigns supreme.” (2: 190. ‘Al-Baqara’)
“Fight for the cause of Allah with the devotion due to him.” (22:78. ‘Al-Hajj’)
Fighting, punishing, striking fear into and killing unbelievers are frequent suggestions throughout the Qu’ran. In fact when you add them all together they total 297 references. Furthermore it is also enough to feel wronged to trigger an act of revenge. For;
“Those who avenge themselves when wronged incur no guilt.” (42:43. ‘Al-Shura’)
The use of terror is a suggested strategy.
“We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers” (3:150. ‘Al-Imran’)
Dealing with unbelievers in battle can require decapitation.
“When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads….” (47:4. )
Heavenly rewards are promised for killing and being killed;
“Allah has purchased of the faithful their lives and worldly goods and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for His cause, slay and be slain.” (9:110. ‘Al-Tawba’)
Ambush tactics are recommended;
“When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them.” (7:5. ‘Al-A’raf’)
These and the numerous other examples within the Qu’ran explain not only the actions of the Islamist fundamentalist terrorists, who shout ‘God is Great’ as they brutally kill, but also explains the lack of condemnation of these atrocities by ordinary Muslim believers. Just recently (late October 2020) there have been large public demonstrations of Muslims in various countries but not to condemn the random killing and decapitation of the French citizens. Instead, the demonstrations were organised to condemn the French President Macron for not condemning the cartoons.
Amazingly, to many true believers of Islam, the brutal and gruesome deaths of random people by Islamic militants are not bad enough to be publicly denounced – but drawings they do not like are. And again, as with the followers of Judaism and Christianity, no group or individual followers of Islam with regard to the Qu’ran have as yet openly; ‘campaigned to have these numerous (297 and counting) inhuman scriptural attitudes and actions highlighted and denounced as completely unacceptable as modern ways of thinking and behaving’.
It should be a shameful embarrassment to all religious believers, that all three Abrahamic scriptural ideologies – at their very cores – deny the true humanity of everyone other than members of their own particular creed and have thus openly and frequently advocated brutally killing them. Undoubtedly, the founding texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam thus keep alive these ancient patriarchal forms of intolerance and brutality which are still being acted out in various ways by their followers, thousands of years later.
To revolutionary-humanists, religions represent a sectarian and patriarchal problem to be resolved and overcome by humanity; not a solution or guide for our future collective well-being.
Roy Ratcliffe. (November 2020)